cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
Cd Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"The whole thing felt pretty special, and I desitively was in a different zone for this record" - (Dr. John) . . . . "It’s a rollicking affair that touches on gospel, blues and funk, with plenty of jazz" - (Hal Horowitz - americansongwriter)

This is album retro-review number 116 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

I look at my healthy collection of vinyl and CD’s wondering should I go “classic” album, or go “new” album?

Well the answer was obvious, go for something classic and new!

SKE-DAT-DE-DAT The Spirit of Satch is a 13 track Cd album from the mighty and much loved Dr. John and it was released in 2014 on the Proper Label it has no album ID code.

 

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
Cd label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Recorded late in 2013 it runs for almost fifty eight and a half minutes and if quantity is a measure it is great value. However, when we are talking about two giants of New Orleans, the late and incredibly great “Satchmo” Louis Armstrong and, Dr. John then we expect and we get, more than quantity, we get quality in spades!

Dr. John has now been on the music scene since the late 1950’s. It was in this period when he wrote pieces of music and played guitar on some of the greatest records to come out of the Crescent City, including recordings by Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Joe Tex and Frankie Ford.

He shot to prominence in 1968 with the release of his first album, the legendary “Gris Gris” album, which changed Malcolm John Rebennack into Dr John (also know as the Night Tripper).

Over the years he has indulged in a variety of styles but has always remained faithful to his New Orleans music heritage and has proudly continued to wear the mantle of Dr. John.

There are no shortages of information on him, and perhaps the best source is his own website. In addition to his 32 albums, his web site tells us that he has – “… six Grammy wins (1989, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2013), he has received six other Grammy nominations over the years.

On this, album review number one hundred and sixteen, he has drawn upon the amazing song writing skills of another legendary New Orleans artist – Satchmo” Louis Armstrong, who was still playing around the US including New Orleans up to his death in 1971.

Armstrong’s legacy of music is so massive listing his albums alone takes seventeen pages.

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
Rear of CD: Track listing – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The CD does have a six page booklet and the quality of production is worth rating at 8/10, and it lists the tracks and the musicians that contributed to each track.

Sadly it does not include any of the words to the songs, and background information on why these particular tracks were chosen or indeed, any information on either Dr John or “Satchmo“.

So for content it has to sit around 5/10, and it gets that high a rating because the list of contributing musicians is extensive and complete.

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
Inside cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Dr John had actually met Louis Armstrong several times in real life: “Two years before Joe Glaser died, I joined his Associated Booking Corporation in 1967.

Glaser had managed Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and Louis for about 40 years. I signed up with BB King and I met Louis several times at Joe’s office in New York. I asked Louis about a photograph on Joe’s office wall, of Ralph Schultz’ Fresh Hardware Store, which was opposite my dad’s shop.

Louis was laughing about that other shop. It was a place of such activity, where you could get married and buy break tag stickers for your car. The owner was a funny character, we all knew that.

I told Louis that we were both from the third ward of New Orleans and that when I was a child my father always pointed out the house in Jane Alley where Armstrong had been born.

The mayor had areas demolished in the Sixties, including that one, so we lost a site of great historical importance. That was not cool. I loved meeting him, we talked and jawed a lot.”

Track Listing:

  1. Wonderful World featuring Nicholas Payton and The Blind Boys of Alabama
  2. Mack The Knife featuring Terence Blanchard and Mike Ladd
  3. Tight Like This featuring Arturo Sandoval and Telmary
  4. I’ve Got The World On A String featuring Bonnie Raitt
  5. Gut Bucket Blues featuring Nicholas Payton
  6. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child featuring Anthony Hamilton
  7. That’s My Home featuring Wendell Brunious and The McCrary Sisters
  8. Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen featuring Ledisi and The McCrary Sisters
  9. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams featuring Terence Blanchard and The Blind Boys of Alabama
  10. Dippermouth Blues featuring James 12 Andrews
  11. Sweet Hunk O’Trash featuring Shemekia Copeland
  12. Memories Of You featuring Arturo Sandoval
  13. When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You) featuring Dirty Dozen Brass Band


The list of artists is indeed impressive, and the total list of all contributors is far too long to mention, but here are a few other than the good “Doctor“.

  • Terence Blanchard
  • Blind Boys Of Alabama
  • Shemekia Copeland
  • Dirty Dozen Brass Band
  • Anthony Hamilton
  • Ledisi
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Nicholas Payton
  • Tony Dagradi
  • Sarah Morrow
  • Ivan Neville
  • The McCrary Sisters


So with thirteen tracks to choose from it was hard to go past track number one What A Wonderful World. This is indeed a great song and I do enjoy the harmonies of the Blind Boys of Alabama, who accompany the good doctor along with featured artists, Nicholas Payton.

The Blind Boys
first started performing in 1944, and over the years all the original members have passed on, but the current lineup of: Jimmy Carter, Eric Mckinnie, Benjamin Moore, Paul Beasley, Joey Williams and Tracy Pierce – have kept the legend and the sweet, sweet sound going.

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
The Blind Boys of Alabama



The track wasn’t written by Armstrong, who despite his prolific output of music, only wrote about fifty tracks over his life, albeit that most became classics, but it was first recorded by him in 1967.

It is a song of reflection and joy!

I see trees of green,
red roses too.
I see them bloom,
for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces,
Of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands.
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying,
“I love you”.

I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more,
Than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Yes, I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Oh yeah.

The fact of the matter is, that Dr. John has not tried to emulate “Satchmo” in anyway shape of form and puts his own style and feel into this track, which indeed he has done on all thirteen tracks.

When you begin to consider the caliber of the people he collaborates with such as Payton and the Blind Boys, as he does on this track, then the resulting “music gumbo” indeed strongly encourages a totally different feel to the track.

The track kicks off with just the voices of the Blind Boys singing a capella before a strong and powerful music backing introduces the “Doctor“, with the Blind Boys doing backing vocals.

The fantastic trumpet “solo’s” are courtesy of the brilliant playing of Nicholas Payton, who is one of the best trumpet players currently recording. A native of New Orleans, he has recorded in his own right as well as supporting many, many artists.

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
Nicholas Payton

 

Whereas “Satchmo’s” version was reflective and thus downbeat – this is an “arse-kicking” tempo that makes full use of a ten man backing group – and that ten players do not include Payton or the Blind Boys who are in addition!

This was a great track for the producers to use to get this album going and dare I say, it is possibly better than Armstrong’s original, if not, I’m it sure is its equal.

What A Wonderful World

 

Next I jumped across to track number fourI’ve Got A World On A String.

Written by Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen in 1932, it was ostensibly written for the 1932 Cotton Club Parade – which celebrates Duke Ellington’s years at the famed Harlem nightclub in the 1920s and ’30s. This was a period when the joint was jumping with shows featuring big band swing and blues music, it was recorded the following year for the first time by Louis Armstrong.

No less than twenty other well known artists have recorded the track, and it’s possible that the Dr. John/Bonnie Raitt version is number twenty one.

Now Raitt who is an American blues singer-songwriter and who plays slide guitar, was in my mind an inspired choice for this track.

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
Bonnie Raitt – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

This is very much a big band blues/jazz version with a really nice lay-back feel.

So when the “Doctor” kicks it off, the counter-point verses are picked up by Raitt, and she is superb, utterly right and her voice in this made the hairs on the nape of my neck stand up.

The backing has a real New Orlean’s Jazz-Blues but when guitarist Derwin “Big D” Perkins comes in with his smooooth guitar solo, we get the blues image, which then swings back to the Orlean’s jazz feel when the two vocalists come back in.

Unlike the last track I spoke about, the Armstrong original version is actually at a faster tempo, and a very much stripped back jazz combo feel.

You cannot deny the Satchmo vocals are just amazing, and I will not be drawn into, “who sings it better”, because there are over 70 years between the two versions, and they are, rightly, both A1 – excellent versions.

The fact that Louis is the trumpet player extraordinaire means it is featured more heavily in his version, and is supplanted somewhat, by the guitar in the Dr. John version, although the brass backing in this albums version is pretty damn sweet!

I’ve Got The World On A String

 

Utterly spoiled for choice! let’s face it there are no bad Louise Armstrong tracks, and when you consider that there were literally thousands of tracks that could have been chosen, to make the thirteen on this album means each has it’s own special story.

So with great regret I slide past some most excellent music before stopping at track number 11. Here we find Dr. John taking a little more of a “back-seat” to Shemekia Copeland.

The track is the evocatively titled Sweet Hunk O’Trash.

This is actually a remarkable choice by all involved, as the original Louis Armstrong version was sung with perhaps the greatest female jazz singer of all times, Billie Holiday.

Now Billie had worked with “Satchmo” on a film in 1946 called “New Orleans” and as a result of that film, which under-utilised Billie’s talent, they got together for a recording session in 1949.

 

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

With total and mutual respect probably the best track to come out of that session was My Sweet Hunk O’Trash.

What is particularly delightful is that Armstrong kept to his “formula” of ad-libbing, which he developed throughout his various duets.

Holiday is, well Holiday and she is as personable and great when singing with him as when singing with anyone.

So it was indeed a big call to re-record this track, and Dr. John chose Shemekia Copeland.

The daughter of Texas blues guitarist and singer Johnny Copeland, she began to pursue a singing career in earnest at age 16 and constantly drew upon the blues for inspiration. In fact she worked with Dr. John when he produced her 2005 record, Talking to Strangers.

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
Shemekia Copeland

 

When I was browsing the liner notes prior to listening to the album, I had very real concerns that this track might be a dud!

I was very familiar with the Armstrong original, and while Dr. John would be the first to admit he is no “Satchmo“, how could Copeland sing and even come close to being as strong as Billie Holiday?

Well the good news is that this is a great cover version.

I have to admit that I still hear the original as a better version, despite the better overall production on this version.

A lot of time has passed and the technology and knowledge has improved, and the great production of this track is commensurate with the new approaches in production.

The piano playing by Dr John is very good, and once again Big D” Perkins plays some mean guitar. The vocal interplay between them both is very good and sounds very relaxed.

The brass backing and Hammond B3 fit beautifully and I finished listening to the track, full of admiration for what has been achieved – and what was that? A beautiful yet sassy piece of music!.

Sweet Hunk O’Trash

 

It’s very hard not to finish off with the track the producers of this album, who incidentally are Sarah Morrow and Dr. John who formed their SaMac Productions company.

Just as an aside Sarah is an amazing woman and it is easy to see how she and the “Doctor” hit it off.

She is a Trombonist, composer, lyricist and producer who broke into the international jazz scene in 1995 as the first female instrumentalist to join Ray Charles‘ all-star orchestra. He list of achievements and accolades are large indeed and have been commented on in previous reviews.

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
Sarah Morrow & Dr. John

 

The last track is in fact, When You’re Smiling [The Whole World Smiles With You].

Louis Armstrong recorded this track no less than three times, in 1929, 1932, and 1956. What a fabulous and rollicking version.

Using the Dirty Dozen Brass Band was a brilliant decision. The band has a great way of describing how it came about. “To describe how the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has arrived at its 35th Anniversary, trumpet player Gregory Davis employs a tried-and true New Orleans-centric analogy: “It ends up being like a pot of gumbo – you drop in a little okra, drop in a little shrimp, you drop in some crabs.

Before you know it, you’ve mixed in all these different ingredients and you’ve got a beautiful soup. That was our approach to music early on and it still is today.” [Dirty Dozen Brass Band]

Formed in and around New Orleans 37 years ago, these guys are good, no I mean it! They are very, very good.

“Brass bands” may not be too everyone’s taste, but to think of the music of New Orleans without thinking brass bands, is too . . . well its like thinking of “Gumbo” without heat!

The name “Dirty Dozen” actually goes back to the groups real formation in 1972 when it was formed to give direction to “lost youth”, but as members came and went, it finally got to its core membership and went professional in 1977.

It kicks off with what is almost a calypso style feel, but as it develops the “jazz” feel begins to dominate.

I guess it tends to vacillate between the two styles because what the artists and producers have done, is to give the whole track a really happy and uplifting feel. And why not?  That’s the essence of the composition.

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

 

When you’re smilin’ keep on smilin’
The whole world smiles with you
And when you’re laughin’ oh when you’re laughin’
The sun comes shinin? through

But when you’re cryin’ you bring on the rain
So stop your sighin ‘be happy again
Keep on smilin ’cause when you’re smilin’
The whole world smiles with you

Oh when you’re smilin’ keep on smilin’
The whole world smiles with you
Ah when you’re laughin’ keep on laughin’
The sun comes shinin’ through

Now when you’re cryin’ you bring on the rain
So stop that sighin’ be happy again
Keep on smilin ’cause when you’re smilin’
And the whole world smiles with you

The great big world will smile with you
The whole wide world will smile with you

When You’re Smiling



The only track I felt the album didn’t do justice to in regard to the music of “Satchmo“, and indeed the rest are wonderful interpretations of his work, is Mac the Knife.

I think it sounds awkward with the rap lyrics, in fact it’s almost like the decision to add the “rap” was somewhat to pay, unnecessarily, homage to a style of music which has its place on the street – but not in this track.

Sure Mac the Knife is about violence, street violence, but I don’t know, it just didn’t sound right to me!

The rest of the album is not just quality for money, it is an issue of quality music that sets a variety of moods, from the reflective to the “Let’s get down and dance”!

It demonstrates how “Satchmo” Louis Armstrong’s music is eternal.

It absolutely demonstrates the ability of a large range of artists to interpret the music of many decades ago, to put their own feel on it, yet to do so in a respectful and in a way that brings the music alive for new generations.

Is surely demonstrates that Dr. John Rebbenack has cemented himself once and for all as an all time great artist. Like so many of the greats before him, as he ages he just gets better and better.

He was New Orleans’ most prominent living musical icon of the 21st century until his sad passing in June of 2019.

 

cream of the crate: album review #116 – ske-dat-de-dat the spirit of satch: dr. john

 

This is an album I can highly recommend, it would be a winner in most collections and is readily available through Ebay for around $18.00.


VIDEOS:

These are the best clips I could locate that have an association with this album.

 

The Spirit Of Satch

 

Dr. John plays Louis Armstrong’s piano

 

Umbria Jazz 2014 – Dr. John with Sarah Morrow


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:

#101:  Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (Live)

#102:  Les Paul and Mary Ford – The World Is waiting For The Sunrise

#103:  Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

#104:  Los Fronterizos – Misa Creole

#105:  Bobby Bright – Child Of Rock And Roll

#106:  The  Nylons – One Size Fits All

#107:  Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come [Soundtrack from the film]

#108:  Paul Simon – Graceland

#109.  The Ventures – The Very Best Of

#110.  The Pardoners – Indulgences

#111.  Atlantic R&B: Volumes 1 – 3 [1947 to 1957] 

#112.  Atlantic R&B Volumes 4 & 5 [1957 – 1965]

#113.  Roots of Rock: Vol.12 – Union Avenue Breakdown

#114.  David Fanshawe – African Sanctus

#115.  A Reefer Derci – Various Artists